Granblue Fantasy Versus, based on the free-to-play RPG Granblue Fantasy, was planned and produced by Cygames and developed by Arc System Works. The game enjoyed such success that it is said to have brought about a reunion across the fighting game community on release. The sequel to the title, Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising (hereinafter referred to as GBVSR), was recently announced at Evo 2023. The new title’s release is scheduled for November 30, 2023, for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and PC (Steam). 

Prior to the release date being announced, a media event was held, during which we had the opportunity to interview Tetsuya Fukuhara, the creative director of Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising. 

──How much knowledge of the original title, Granblue Fantasy, will be needed to play GBVSR? 
In principle, it won’t be necessary. The game is designed so that it can be enjoyed without previous knowledge of Granblue Fantasy. That said, knowledge of the original game will make the playing experience even more enjoyable. If I were to suggest one thing that I would like players to do before playing, it would be to learn about the catalyst that brought the characters together – how the protagonist and Lyria meet and why they embarked on their journey. The first and second episodes of the anime tell this part of the story, which can be watched in about 40 minutes, and could be a great way for players to prepare themselves before they play the game. As for the personalities and relationships of the characters, we were conscious of making them visible through dialogue during battles and whatnot. 

──What kind of feedback did you receive from players who participated in the recent beta test? What did you think of the feedback? 
We’re still in the process of reviewing all the feedback we have received online and via surveys sent through email forms, but I have skimmed through everything we have received up to this point. My impression so far is that a lot of the feedback leans in the same direction. We will use what we received to discuss with Arc System’s battle engineers and decide on future adjustments. We are also planning to conduct a second beta test in the fall, which will also include the Steam version and “Grand Bruise Legends!” By then, there will already be parts of the game adjusted based on the feedback received during the first beta test, so it will be a good opportunity for us to check the response. Our goal is for as many people as possible to find the game easy to pick up, exhilarating, and fun, so we will continue to refine the game in this direction, and we hope to receive feedback from players as well. 

*Grand Bruise Legends! is a new party game mode that will be included in GBVSR. Players will be able to play mini games using their online lobby avatars. 

──The online lobby seems to have evolved greatly, is there a reason why you focused on this feature in particular? 
The quality of the online lobby and lobby avatars were well received in the previous title, so we simply focused on strengthening these features further. Since players have lobby avatars, we thought we should create various ways for them to be used aside from just walking around. This is why we decided to introduce mini games that can be enjoyed casually, such as obstacle races and survival games. Another thing is jumping – whether it’s jumping from joy or frustration, we introduced jumping as a universal way to express oneself without words. And above all, I just thought it would be fun for players, which is why I decided to introduce the action. 

──Are there any rewards to be received for playing Grand Bruise Legends? 
Yes. You can earn rewards such as titles, in-game currency, and lobby avatars by accumulating experience points through the mini-games and raising your level. 

Separately from that, the fighting game also has levels for each character, which is raised by accumulating experience.  Experience can be gained by using a character in battle, regardless of whether the battle is won or lost – reaching certain levels unlocks new weapon skins, colors, and whatnot. 

──What were the criteria for selecting new/additional characters? 
The selection is based on various factors, such as the silhouette of the characters when lined up, their fighting styles, and their roles and positions in the original game. In addition, for GBVSR, we factored in the popularity of the characters from the original Granblue Fantasy game more than we did for GBVS. 

──What are some of the major changes in GBVSR compared to its predecessor? 
For Granblue Fantasy Versus, we received a lot of feedback that defense is too strong, which makes players prone to stalemate. Bearing this in mind, we renewed the system with Arc System Works to make the game more aggressive so that it feels more satisfying and battles can flow more smoothly. The recent beta test brought us a lot of feedback related to these changes, so we are now in the process of determining further adjustments based on the responses. 

──In the beta version, the throw tech window was extended to make the move easier to perform. What were the intentions behind the changes related to throws and throw techs? 
The concept for GBVSR is basically that we want both advanced and beginner players alike to use Raging Strikes to break their foe’s guard at critical moments. In addition, there are quite a few players who have trouble dealing with throw loops (throwing a foe and approaching them to throw them again upon wake-up), so these adjustments were made upon considering a variety of factors. Based on feedback so far, players seem relatively polarized between those who are uncomfortable with the changes and those who are positive about them. The theory of throws in this game is a bit different from conventional fighting games, as they occur quickly and are a useful defensive method for interrupting the opponent, but this is difficult to understand visually. I think that due to that, only the longer throw tech window stood out. Looking back, I regret not explaining this point before the beta test. When used at the right time, they are inescapable and are a swift and satisfying way to deal significant damage. 

We have also received a variety of comments on the new uses for the SBA gauge. While some have been positive, there have also been some who say that the gauge now has so many uses that there are fewer opportunities to use it for its intended purpose. We would like to do something about this issue as well, so this is another point for which we will take user feedback into consideration for future adjustments. 

──You organized a tournament with the beta version of the game at Evo 2023. Can you tell us about how this came to be? 
The game is scheduled to be released on November 30, which means there won’t be any major GBVS events for a while, so we wanted to create another opportunity for people to play the game outside of the beta test. Last year at Evo, there was another game that held a tournament with a beta version, so we thought we could do the same thing. With the cooperation of the Evo organizers, we were able to make it happen. 

――Are there any plans to add guest characters? 
I can’t say anything for sure at this point, but that’s not a “no” either. I can’t make any promises, but if we do decide to do so, we want it to be something that will please both GBVS players and fans of the original game. 

──Will there be any changes to the ranked match system? I expect that there will be a big gap in skill between those who move on from GBVS to GBVSR and those who start with GBVSR from zero, so will there be some kind of distinction made between them in ranked matches? 
I can’t be specific about it yet, but we have made some modifications to the ranked match system. Fighting games are harsh games where you have to roll with the defeats along with the victories as they come, so we are hoping to soften the impact a little with the partner function and the experience point system that rewards you regardless of whether you win or lose. 

As for ranks, since this is a new game, everyone will start from zero. As for the skill gap between experienced players and beginners, there will be a question at the start of the game regarding previous experience with the game and fighting game experience in general, so I would like to ask players to answer this question honestly. 

──Will there be any transfer possible from the previous title to the new one? 
For the most part, there will be no data transfer, but players will be able to transfer things such as special titles, skins, colors, etc. they earned in GBVS. For example, titles earned from tournaments such as RAGE, EX Colors received for participating in the Cygames Cup, and weapon skins and character colors received as Battle Pass rewards can be transferred. It will also be possible to carry over one’s story progression. 

──Is there anything you would like to tell players? 
We are working on GBVSR with the goal of creating a game that can be enjoyed by those who have played GBVS, but also attract new players. Fighting games are currently experiencing a major upsurge as a genre, and we hope that GBVSR will contribute to that. Please look forward to it. 

──Thank you for your time. 

Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising will be released worldwide for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Steam as a digitally-exclusive title on November 30, 2023. Pre-orders are currently open, and the PlayStation 4/PlayStation 5 versions will come with a code to receive a set of in-game items in the original Granblue Fantasy for a limited period of four months after release. 

Translated by. Amber V (original Japanese article’s publication date: 2023-08-07 17:00 JST)